Friday, February 5, 2016

Rainbow spaghetti

Coloring books are not what I remembered. Grand Daughters M and C, Grand Son M, and I were trading markers back and forth, putting color to the intricate design of swooping and overlapping lines that filled the page. Faces pinched in concentration gave display to the challenge of tracing the twisting paths, each of us laughing when one of us “got lost”. The normal routine for the last few days would have seen us all in the pool or on the beach. But pale mid-western winter complexions needed a break from the Florida sun, so we were spending a few hours playing indoors.

Outdoors lay Ocean, beach, heated pool, hot tub, and shuffle board, all amenities put to good use as the week unfolded. It was the first time Kintala's crew had been consistently off the boat since...well, its been a few months anyway. Though we did return to our v-berth each evening for sleeping, each day saw us joining the family at the beach, morning coffee still in hand. The Ocean was the main draw, but the chilly water temperature and surf reduced ocean play to mostly wading. Grand Daughter EB (youngest at just over a year old) was fearless, doing the toddler stomp due east until the wavelets broke over her knees. Mom was always at hand to make sure all was well, since the usual result of such boldness was landing on hands and knees, little face close to the Atlantic waters. As soon as she was on her feet she would set out for Europe once again. 
Wrestling with grandkids makes a great day
We also spent hours in the pool where Grand Son G went from barely getting wet on the steps on day one, to clinging hard to the sides on day two, to paddling happily across the pool by day four. Grand Daughter C (the oldest) was shy about getting her head wet, at first. By week's end she was jumping into the deep end and staying under water as long as she could manage. Each of the kids, in the way that kids do, got a little bolder as they pushed their fears back, making their way in the world. I try not to think about how many more little one's fears they will have bested by the time we see them again.

The temporary intersection of being boat gypsies and resort vacationers was interesting. I think it fair to say that we live a bit “raw” as boat gypsies. Sleep is often interrupted. (Last night we were on deck at 0400 resetting the fenders as the winds shifted.) We adjust for the temperature by adding or shedding sweat shirts, long sleeves, and shoes. Weather discussions are frequent and often detailed, getting it wrong means more than just not having the umbrella at hand should it rain. Now that the much anticipated time with family is over, nearly 700 miles lie between us and where we need to be by early spring. A good many of those miles are waters Kintala has never passed through before. By any comparison with resort vacationing, it is sure to be an adventure. Not all that different from toddler stomping eastbound into the waves.

A fog bow over the beach
When we do see family again, all of the kids will have learned new skills, found new places to explore, and learned some new lessons. Each will have experienced the tangled up, interwoven ribbons of living, will have pushed some back fears, and managed to overcome challenges unexpected. There will have been moments when they felt lost, but eventually picked up the trail and sorted things out. They will have stories of rainbow spaghetti.

And so will we.

Kintala on the dock at Daytona Marina

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Better than the glossies

Kintala is in Daytona and on the  dock for a week, waiting the arrival of Daughter Middle and family. They have only seen the boat once, and that was several years ago. I am sure the visit is going to count as among the best of times, but I fear they are not going to find our Tartan to be too impressive. For, you see, lying parallel to our 42 foot sailboat, just across the dock, is a boat so big that Kintala looks like its tender. Sitting here at the salon table, looking up through the hatch in the overhead, and I am looking up, way up, at her flying bridge. It sits about two thirds of the way up our 60 foot mast. It looks, for all the world, like we are parked in the middle of a major city looking up at a building.

Not only is this as close as we have ever been tied to a mega yacht, this is the most protected dock we have ever been on. Fifty knots worth of wind could blow through this place and we would barely feel it. Total fetch is about 60 feet, with mega boats blocking one side and the Florida peninsula blocking the other. And you can believe that I crept into here with all of the skill I could muster, not wanting to even imagine how embarrassing it would be to bounce off of something like that thing.

Even though we had a reservation, we were a little unsure of the reception as we turned down the channel. Once upon a time in my other life I flew a corporate jet for a living. It was a little corporate jet, and when we pulled into a place full of big corporate jets they would often park us out in the back 40, maybe send a golf cart out to pick up the luggage. After all, we were only going to buy a couple of thousand bucks worth of fuel. Peanuts compared to that flowing into the G-Vs, Falcons, and Challengers. I'll bet there were times when the catering bill on one of those things was bigger than the fuel bill on the Citation. So really, what are the chances that my tired old sailboat is going to garner much attention in a place like this?

Well, it turns out when the “place like this” is the Daytona Marina and Boat Yard, the chances are pretty good. Dock Master Dave met us at the pump out dock, where we pulled up right behind another mega yacht. He was laughing and friendly, catching our lines and handing the poop hose over the life line. Then he walked us down the dock to show us where we would be spending the week. It is pretty much the Number One spot to be, just steps away from the facilities, and the facilities are some of the nicest we have seen. In fact we are parked bow on to the boat that he lives in. The Dock Master is our next door neighbor, and he even had some nice things to say about our Tartan. (I think he really meant them!) And before you ask, the price isn't even scary.

The kids are not even here yet, and it is already a visit worth remembering. Even better, the motor sail from Titusville was about as nice a motor sail as one can have. After three days of relentless rain the sun came out. By mid afternoon I was down to wearing just a t-shirt and jeans, the first time that has happened in weeks.

The Haulover Canal. Deb's least favorite place. An opening bridge and dozens of fishing boats parked in the
middle of the channel. Pin ball anyone???

So here we are, as far north as Kintala is likely to be for the next year or more, waiting for family, in an interesting place, and being treated a bit like boating royalty. Sometimes living this way is even better than it looks in the glossies.

Our sunrise this morning in Titusville

One of the joys of sailing Kintala. The staysail sheeted inside the stays with the lazy
sheet used as a barber hauler. You can sail this configuration 25° off the wind.


Some Vero Beach Catch-up pictures

The live oak trees in Vero are amazing. They are like something out of The Lord of The Rings movies. This is a
single branch dipping down from the main tree. I took this picture because my grandkids would love to sit on this
one and even the littlest could reach it!

Deceiving picture. Looks like a warm sunny day but it was actually pretty chilly. Still wearing foulie jackets
and sweatshirts at this point.

This guy was supposed to be in the picture above, but he departed early. When I
finally got him perched on the railing he let me know in no uncertain terms what
he felt about being in a picture. I think it was the same bird that tried to steal
Tim's ice cream right out of his hand the day before.

This is a terrible quality picture, but it was the first pink flamingos I've ever seen live outside of a zoo.
The picture was taken from 1/4 mile away with my camera zoomed all the way out and then cropped
so that's the reason for the lousy quality.

View out my galley window as we got ready to leave Titusville this morning

Another interesting water flow picture. The patterns in the water as it rolls away from the boat are amazing to watch.

Friday, January 29, 2016

No need for Speed

I used to like to go fast, really fast. My personal “best feel of speed” came from flying inverted at somewhere around 150 mph, just a few feet off the ground. (Not sure how few, more than 10, less than 20.) I once did mac 1.5 inverted, just feet above the ground. But that was in an FA-18 sim so, though the sensation of speed was pretty real, it doesn't really count as moving at the speed of heat. (I'm not a big fan of the military but I will say this, they have some of the world's coolest toys.)
A close second was 160+ on a motorcycle. Third was any speed through a corner fast enough to get a knee down close to or on the road, again on a motorcycle. (I wonder if anyone has done that on a bicycle, maybe at the bottom of a steep hill?) Oddly enough, flying a jet at 500+ mph never felt that fast. Still, once upon a time on a flight from Little Rock to Chicago in a CRJ700 with its mach .87 cruise speed, and being pushed by a jet core of nearly 200 knots, we were crossing the ground at better than the speed of sound. Chicago sure came up in a hurry that day.

But sailors don't go fast, measuring trips in days. We measured three days of travel to get from Vero Beach to Daytona, though it looks like it will take five. After the first day the forecast turned a bit sour, with heavy rain, thunderstorms, and tornadoes...again. It seemed prudent to put some land between us and the wind, so we nestled into a place called Eau Gallie NW. The Mantus went down at the end of nearly 100 feet of chain and was set hard. Day one and the weather faded with a stalled front. Lots of rain with just a bit of wind. Day two has been more of the same. We hope to be on our way again tomorrow. Estimated time of arrival in Daytona, sometime on Saturday.

I have gotten used to moving at human speeds rather than machine speeds. In fact I've grown kind of partial to it. The fact is most of us are not really going much of anywhere. The journey that we make through life is one of the heart and the head, not so much the feet. And to get anywhere important in the heart, or the head, means being connected with the world, taking time with the people, being passed by dolphins, and moving in concert with the weather. In the journey that matters, the more we hurry the less distance we cover. 

It is impossible to hurry on a sailboat.

The Sailing Rode - Part 2

For those of you stuck inside from all the bad weather, here's Part 2 of the interview we did with Steve and Brandy on Be sure to add their podcast subscription to your podcasts on your iOS or Android device. It's a young podcast but already shows a tremendous amount of promise. Hope you enjoy!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

King of the weather apps

(Ed Note: this is a long post and will take a while to load because of the amount of screen shots.)

By now, I suspect that there are very few of you that don't know that Tim and I are both pilots and, as a result, are complete nerds when it comes to all things weather forecasting. When you're a pilot, weather forecasting is the core of all flying decisions. It rules flying as much as it rules sailing and cruising. Since we always make our own go/no go weather decisions, we surround ourselves with all sorts of weather apps and cross-check them religiously. We've done lots of posts before about various weather apps that we use like Pocket Grib, NOAA Now, Aviation Weather, Marine Weather, Deep Weather, WindyTy and Predict Wind. We also occasionally use Passage Weather, Weather Underground, and for regular daily sit-still forecasts, Weather Bug.  So it may come as a surprise to you that we may, just may, have found a single-source weather app to replace them all.

During this week's extensive coverage of winter storm Jonas on the Weather Channel in the lounge at Vero Beach, one of the anchors just briefly mentioned in passing an app that he was using on his iPad for the show called Storm. It's a Weather Underground app, but a separate one from their regular weather app and is, unfortunately, only available on iOS at the moment. It has so much information in it that it could easily overwhelm a weather newbie, but to old pilots like us it's like opening a big stack of Christmas presents. Last night there was a whole lot of, "Wow - look at this!" and "Hey if you touch this symbol look what you get!" I told you we were serious weather nerds. So just in case you happen to be one of the aforementioned weather newbies, or just in case you don't want to spend most of a day figuring out the app yourselves, here is a tour. I was fortunate enough to have winter storm Jonas to help with all the screen details.

When you first open the app you have a page that is ready to customize, but before you do, click on the settings menu in the upper right hand corner and set your units. The settings menu is the three dots that the yellow arrow is pointing to.

After you have your units set, click on the down menu in the upper left hand corner and set your location. You can either pick a location or you can choose the follow me location. Once you set a location, the data for that location will appear in the lower section of the screen.

Next, you'll start to build the layers that you want to see represented on your page. The layers menu is the toolbar on the right side of the page.

On my page, the layers I have selected that you see in the screen shot below are:

Enhanced Global Radar, Storm Tracks, Windstream, Fronts, Severe Outlooks, Tropical Tracks, Tropical Model Tracks, Tornado/Severe Storms, Tropical, Winter, Marine
There area other choices available to you as well, so poke around and try different things.

On my main map page, the red pie-shaped storm indicator that you can see on the right side of this screen shot in Florida represents a tornadic signature. if you touch the red pie-shaped storm track indicator on the main map it will bring up this little window. It will tell you what cities are in the track of this cell for the next 60 minutes. At the bottom of the window it will also tell you what other things apply. This storm track was in the purple shaded area off the east coast of Florida that was under a Gale Warning as well as a Small Craft Advisory. In the main black middle section, notice that there are five white dots. There are five pages of information that you can access by swiping that middle section.

This is the second page of the middle section, which shows you a list of indexes. You can learn what each index means by clicking on the blue question mark in the blue circle, but in this screen shot you can see that the tornado impact is a 4 out of 10.

The next page is more data about shear and freezing level and several other indices.

The next page tells you probability of hail and approximate size as well as several other indices.

Sorry, but I'm missing a photo of the last page.

If you notice the colored, shaded areas along the coast, those are different weather alerts for the coastal area depicted. If you click on the purple one just south of Talahasee this box pops up which shows you that the area is under a Gale Warning.


 The blue pie-shaped markers are for Hail threat. The blue markers also have all five pages in the center black area.

The green pie-shaped markers are for strong thunderstorms. They also have all five pages of data in the middle black section.

If you touch the white area (from the winter storm Jonas yesterday),
it will bring up a Winter Storm Warning.

If you touch anywhere in the bottom section of the main screen where the local forecast is, it will open to a full window. At the top it lists all the basic info like temp and wind speed and humidity, pressure, etc. If you go down to the middle of the page where it says Daily|Hourly it lists the forecast for the next 10 days. If you look to the right you will see three icons. The first is the list view currently displayed.

If you click on the middle icon it brings up the graph view. In the graph view you can touch and slide the line with the temps along the graph line. If you go to the hourly, you can touch and slide the hours of the day across and the graph below will reflect the hours visible on the screen at the time.

 The third icon brings up the forecast discussion. This is the information that we used to go to the Deep Weather app to find. We really like the discussion because it gives you a chance to hear if there's any uncertainty in the forecast.

 If you go back to the list view, you will see on the far right a plus sign. If you click on that plus sign it will expand each day to give the basic forecast for that day.

 Back on the main screen, in the bottom left hand corner you can see a little icon with a ruler and pencil. If you click this icon and choose ruler, you can touch the screen and draw a line to a storm cell from your location or measure anything else you want. On this screen shot you can see that it was 128 miles from my location to the tornadic storm cell. If you choose the pencil you can write notes on the screen, something that might come in handy if you were doing a screen print to print on a blog or Facebook page.  

 In the lower right hand corner you can see the drop down menu for the windstream. You can choose surface or jet stream. 

You can also choose to see the severe outlooks for today, tomorrow, or three days away in the drop down menu in the bottom right corner. 

 If you choose Wind Speed on the layers menu, it will disable the radar and give you t his screen instead. At the top it has the wind speed color gauge and each of the moving specks of color correspond to the key.

It also has water temperature as a layer possibility, which also disables the radar and gives you this screen corresponding to the key at the top.

Weather Underground absolutely nailed it on this one. The developers deserve a huge attaboy. Hope you find it as useful as we have so far. There are a bunch more layers to play with in the layers menu, so have at it and if you happen on any neat features that you find useful or that we missed, please leave a comment. Have fun!

Thursday, January 21, 2016


Yesterday was water day, humping 50 gallons to the boat 10 gallons at a time. Normally that would sound like “one of those days that comes with living on a boat”. But not all days end up like they sound.

The weather in these parts, while much more comfortable than it has been in other parts, hasn't been all that good for these parts. Rain, thunderstorms, tornadoes, then cold. Cold that is, for those of us who live without central heat or, for that matter, any kind of heat at all. Add the relentless wind ruffling up the water thus turning every dink ride into a cold shower, and one is soon chilled to the bone rather than chilling out. The norm for several days.

The winds faded away yesterday and with them the clouds, but I had gotten so used to being cold under a cloudy sky that I didn't really notice it much at first. It was just a better day to hump water than the day before had been. The first water trip didn't go so well, the common hose splitting open and pretty much soaking everything within range, including me. Par for the course lately, get on with it already.

A bit of rescue tape let the second loading proceed without the shower. At the boat, draining the water from the jug to the tank, the quality of the day finally seeped through to my jaded brain. There was just the gentlest of breezes wafting out of the north. Still cool, but also dry and perfect for the task at hand. Light danced on the wavelets in the way that only those who live near the water know. There were no flying little critters gnawing on my hide.

The mid-morning mooring field was quiet, just the soft putter of a dink or two making way. Pelicans coasted by just inches off the water. A manatee broached a few yards away, puffed a breath, then left the customary circular wake behind as it dove away. 

The magic had slipped in for a few moments.

Later that evening we were in the lounge chatting with a few other cruisers. As usual when I am around, the conversation torched American politics, lit into the marine industry, and touched on the struggles that come with living on a boat in a society that doesn't approve of anything “different”. (I didn't start it, honest. There are a lot of you out here.) Our new friends have just started out. They also got burned at the boat purchase and, as a result, found a job in Vero for the winter to offset the damage done to the cruising kitty. They seemed encouraged to find that they were not alone, that we were also headed for a job that will keep us in one place for many months. It was good for them to know that thunderstorms really are scary for those living at the base of a giant lightning rod, 30 knots of wind cannot be ignored, and a bad day to be out in a dink for one, is a bad day to be out in a dink for all.

Then one of them asked, “Why do you do it? Why do you stay on the boat?

It was a good and honest question from someone finding the reality to be much different than the promise. And I gave them an honest answer.

Some days I wonder why I live on a boat too. But I can (almost) afford to live without taking orders. And it turns out that, no matter how good a job one has taking orders from another, not taking orders from another is much, much better. I like being mobile and living at the edge of society, where it is harder for the lunatics to lay a hand on me. I like being away from the propaganda, the violence, and the relentless fear mongering. I like that we are leaving some resources behind for grand kids to use, and living in a way that throws a spotlight on the excess that is “America”. My deepest hope is that my grand kids will see that there are options, different ways to relate to the world, different ways to live one's life.

But, honest as my answers were, they were not the real ones.

The real reason I live out here is the magic.

The magic isn't exclusive to sailors of course. It exists deep in the flight levels on a night full of stars. It can be felt it in the deserts of Arizona and the deep forests of the central PA mountains. It will even flash by, just for a moment, as a knee touches down at the apex of a corner taken at the limits of speed. But out here, on the boat, it will linger in a way unique.

I don't know why that is, the magic never explains its ways. Maybe being surrounded by water is the secret, the ocean long rumored to be the well from which life sprung. Maybe we are better at listening without schedules to interrupt, or after being away from the crush of others for hours, days, or weeks.

Or maybe, “out here” is simply where the magic lives. Hard as it is to live out here as well, I hope to stay awhile. Being touched by the magic is worth it.